Hot on the heels of last month’s decisions to drop more than a dozen Arabic channels from Nilesat comes news that some 25 Iraqi channels are threatened with closure because they are unlicensed.
BBC Monitoring is reporting that a senior Iraqi official in the Communications and Media Commission has threatened to shut down the channels. Salim Mashkur, a member of the General Secretariat of the [Iraqi] Communications and Media Commission, said the commission would embark upon shutting down the satellite channels that “are operating without licenses, in addition to confiscating their machinery and equipment,” within the coming few days.
In statements to Al-Jazeera.net, and quoted by the BBC, Mashkur clarified that the channels covered by the shut-down are operating without the government’s permission, something no country in the world would allow. He noted that there are several types of channels threatened with closure, including satellite television channels and radio channels, which are local stations in the regional Iraqi governorates. He indicated that calls have been made in the past to these channels, for the purpose of submitting applications to obtain licenses from the Communications and Media Commission.
Mashkur said that those channels which had submitted applications and obtained licenses were allowed to operate. However, those that have not received licenses thus far or have not submitted applications to begin with will not be allowed to operate, even though some are operating now without obtaining permission. He added that a final warning was issued to these stations before they are shut down, even if they have submitted applications for licensing and have not obtained them thus far, in accordance with the laws of the Communications and Media Commission, because warnings were directed to them through the newspapers and media outlets three times, which they did not commit to implementing.
Mashkur specified the number of these channels at 25. He refused to reveal their names, saying “they know who they are.” He added that the legal department, in coordination with the executive branches within the Iraqi Government, would implement the rulings and punishments against these channels, with the participation of a team from the Communications and Media Commission, as the warning period granted to these channels has ended.
Sa’di al-Saba, secretary of the Iraqi Press Association emphasized that “the Communications and Media Commission has not contacted us concerning the closure of these channels. However, if these channels are breaking the law and violating the professional standards of operation, it is the right of the commission to take measures against them, starting with warning them and ending with their closure.” He added: “For our part, we call on the Communications and Media Commission to determine standards of operation for these channels, without the presence of factors that would limit the freedom of press and journalistic work and result in silencing voices. Moreover, we call on the commission not to be a source of pressure on the freedom of expression and opinion for the satellite channels.”
Recently a number of satellite channels have had their offices closed in Baghdad and some of the governorates, the last of which was the closure of the Al-Baghdadiyah Satellite Channel’s offices in Baghdad. The Al-Sharqiyah Channel’s bureau in Baghdad was also shut down after being raided by government forces in the past, which forced the Al-Sharqiyah Channel to move its office to the Arbil Governorate in the Kurdistan region. Prior to this, the office of the Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel was also shut down.